Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to recognize that I stand on traditional territory of the Algonquin nation this evening as I respond to the question raised by the member for Lethbridge.
I am somewhat taken aback by the fact that the late show question presented was not regarding tax reform, but rather the overhauling of the child and family services within the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.
However, I will respond to the original question that was listed on the Order Paper, and that was the question regarding the minister's special representative, Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, who was mandated to conduct a nationwide engagement and to consult on comprehensive child welfare reform. She was mandated to do so because of her expertise within the field.
Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux is a very strong and well-respected indigenous advocate in Canada. She is the very first chair on truth and reconciliation at Lakehead University and has spent her career working tirelessly with and for indigenous people in the country.
During the time she spent working on this important file, she engaged with those who had in the past been typically marginalized in the decision-making process, including first nations youth and families, processes that affected them, as well as grassroots indigenous organizations and advocates. Those are the voices that need to be heard, and that needs to be leading this engagement process.
Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux spent nearly 60 days travelling to communities in Canada. She heard from more than 250 elders, experts, chiefs, families, youth, and individuals who had lived the experience of moving through the system.
We all need to work together to end the cycle of children being taken into care and removed from their communities. It is very concerning that there were perverse incentives in the system where agencies would get the money the more children were apprehended. It should be up to the communities to decide where the money for the system should go. More money for prevention means more money for communities to keep their children within the community, while their parents focus on getting well. The only way to design a system that truly responds to the needs of the communities is by going out and listening to that very community, which is exactly what the special representative did.
In terms of the contract itself, it could not be more straightforward. The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs followed all of Treasury Board's guidelines and rules. The contract included paying out travel expenses and all the costs associated with the consultations in very northern and remote communities in Canada. The special representative did not ask for, nor did she receive, any payments that were above the norm under the Treasury Board rules.
It is vital that we listen to citizens in our country, no matter where they live. That means going to them and listening r what they have to say, which is exactly what the minister's special representative did. We look forward to seeing her upcoming report and how we can build on those recommendations to create a better child welfare system that supports and reflects the needs of first nations children in Canada.